Fountain of Youth

In 1953, Estee Lauder introduced her first fragrance, Youth Dew. It was a bath oil. Legend has it that she “accidentally” dropped a bottle of it on the floor of a New York City department store. As the scent from the shattered bottle pervaded the air, ladies who were shopping at the time demanded to know what that intoxicating fragrance was. The management let Estee sell her fragrance in their store and the rest, as they say, is history.

Whether this story is true or just the myth behind the legend, there is no denying that Estee Lauder went on to become a giant among American cosmetic manufacturers. In an homage to the company’s first success story, Estee Lauder re-introduced Youth Dew Eau de Parfum Spray in a reproduction of the classic bottle from the 1950s. An exotic blend of florals and spices blended with the heady aromatics of moss, vetiver, and patchouli, this classic scent has been called one of the sexiest fragrances ever created. On the other hand, there are many who associate it with their grandmothers. But that just attests to the classic status of the fragrance that it has endured while so many other scents have fallen by the wayside.

I love the retro packaging of this spray bottle. I don’t wear it all the time because I tend to lean in the direction of those who feel it reminds them of their grandmothers, but I like owning it because it’s a classic among American fragrances. The irony is that I was inspired to buy it, after dismissing it for years as an “old lady fragrance,” by an 87-year-old woman. She was the mother of one of my co-workers who came to visit the museum where I work. She was vivacious and so well put-together with her face properly powdered and her lipstick neatly in place, like all ladies who grew up in the era when everyone got dressed up to go out of the house. When another co-worker asked her what fragrance she was wearing she replied “Youth Dew.” I can imagine this lady has been wearing it for decades and probably won’t wear anything else. It’s as classic as Hazel Bishop lipstick and Anne Klein pumps. For her, it truly is a fountain of youth.

The Estee Lauder Company has created dozens of fragrances since first launching Youth Dew, but Youth Dew remains the brand’s most iconic perfume. In 2005 the company even commissioned designer Tom Ford to re-invent Youth Dew for a new generation. His limited edition Youth Dew Amber Nude was a slightly more floral, but equally exotic concoction that, to me, didn’t smell all that different from the original Youth Dew. Which proves the point that you can’t improve upon a classic.

Do you like Youth Dew, or do you think it’s an “old lady” fragrance?

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